Bethlehem and the Birth of Jesus

Is it in Judea or Galilee? Both. But in Jesus’ time. Where was the Bethlehem he was born in? According to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke he was born in Bethlehem of Judea. But apparently that is insufficient archaeological evidence. Right now the evidence seems to be tending in the other direction. I won’t be surprised when it shifts back. I only wonder if I will hear about it.

The Times summarizes the work and says,

“There is a complete absence of information for antiquities from the Herodian period — that is, from the time around the birth of Jesus,” Aviram Oshri says in Archaeology. “The vast database of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) describes Bethlehem as an ‘ancient site’ with Iron Age material, and the 4th- century Church of the Nativity and associated Byzantine and medieval buildings.

“Following the Six-Day War in 1967, surveys showed plenty of Iron Age pottery, but with the single exception of a publication that mentions Herodian sherds found in a corner of the church, there is surprisingly no archaeological evidence that ties Bethlehem in Judaea to the period in which Jesus would have been born.” A contemporary aqueduct running through the locality suggests that there was no settlement, since such works did not cross built-up areas.

In the 1990s, as one of the IAA’s staff archaeologists, Mr Oshri carried out rescue archaeology at the rural settlement of Bethlehem in Galilee, and was surprised to find a substantial ancient community of the time of Christ. “We know that Bethlehem of Galilee was a “bustling centre of Jewish life around the time of Jesus’s birth,” he says. “There were residential areas, and a workshop for making stone vessels used in Jewish purification rituals.”

In the 19th century there were suggestions that the Galilee site could have been the “real” Bethlehem, but there was at the time no archaeological evidence to back them up. Since then, evidence of surprisingly strong early Christian interest has been found, including a large 6th-century church with mosaic floors, one of the largest in Israel. It “raises the question of why such a huge house of Christian worship was built in the heart of a Jewish area,” Mr Oshri notes.

The Times goes on to quote the archaeologist as saying that the Christians made up the information in the Bible in order to give Christianity more legitimacy. I’ll be surprised if that turns out to be substatiated in any way at all.

Sometimes folks look for what they believe and they find it. And sometimes what they find doesn’t mean what they think it means.

found on Cronaca

Archaelology which Cronaca references, says that the Biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus differ.

According to the New Testament account of the apostle Matthew, Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem in the southern region of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth and later moved to Nazareth in the northern Galilee region. In the more popular account of the apostle Luke, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveled more than 90 miles from their residence in Nazareth to Joseph’s Judean hometown of Bethlehem to be counted in a Roman census. Regardless of the variation, both apostles agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, the city where King David had been born a thousand years earlier.

Matthew says only “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea” (2:1a). It says nothing about where they lived or when they moved there.

Luke says “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem…” (2:4a)

Matthew only says where Jesus was born, which agrees with what Luke says. Saying someone was born somewhere doesn’t mean they lived there. I ought to know. I was born in Plainview, but my folks lived in Lubbock. And surely there are those whose mom’s were on vacation or on a journey and were born somewhere other than where their mother resided?

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